the arthritic cat
basks in the sunlight
Honourable Mention, Neo-classical Haiku, World Haiku Review (June 2016, World)
© Christina Sng
This haiku, to my mind, is double-sided. It may seem like it is a simply poem about an arthritic cat enjoying a moment away from pain, but therein lies the other side. Even as the cat is enjoying its moment of peace, its pain and existence of suffering will come back momentarily or the cat is already feeling pain, but only has a peek at peace. That serenity seems bittersweet: intermixed with the joy is the mooring of pain that the cat feels continuously.
This applies to human beings as well, and it is typical in haiku to show compassion to animals and nature in general so we can reflect on ourselves. Through our compassion for the cat, we may realize that people around us feel the same, living moment by moment in pain with glimpses of peace.
The first two lines make for a strong juxtaposition. “Comfort” and “arthritic” are not two words we usually associate together. But that is what haiku does: brings together dissonant parts of life and makes us see the range that life brings, in all its contradictions. But in this haiku, and many others, the end result is the heart: through the contradiction, the melancholy, we feel compassion and care for the cat–and hopefully in turn, we care for all living beings and for ourselves.
The last line gives the impression that the cat is relaxing for a while with “basks.” But who is to know if the cat is feeling pain, if it is trying escape from pain, or in fact the cat has passed away and is simply laying in the sunlight now–a kind of heavenly light, but in a direct sense.
This haiku is made up of hints, and leads the reader to many avenues of the mind. However, this haiku has a celebratory mood, though tinged with a sense of sadness. The use of “the” in the last line gives the light more prominence and it would not be far-fetched that the cat has passed away and or the cat is in its final moments. It is not so common in haiku to have two “the” as we like to give focus to one thing. But here the cat and the sunlight has equal importance, which hints that the cat and the sunlight are a part of a larger process that we need to pay attention to.
Notice how each line ends with a definitive “t.” The strength of the sound of the “t” should not be underestimated. It is the power behind words such as “might,” “smite,” and “sight.” It is a sharp sounding letter appropriate for a sharp contrast and look into existence. Also, “cat” and “comfort,” besides the alliteration, brings in a sense of keenness.
In haiku, the last line is usually short. However, in light of the pain and possible death, the poet judiciously uses a longer line to show importance and present a tribute.
As a former cat owner, I know how hard it is to see a beloved pet suffer and die. I believe this haiku brought out the appropriate emotion without being overt, using evocative imagery instead.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky